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CAA Preview: This is the year for Charleston to take control of the league race

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the CAA.

The CAA has been UNC Wilmington‘s league over the course of the last three seasons, as Kevin Keatts built the Seahawks into a powerhouse. They won a share of the league’s regular season title in his first two season’s on campus before winning the outright league title this past year. Throw in two straight NCAA tournament appearances – where the Seahawks gave both Duke and Virginia a run for their money in the opening round – and it’s no surprise that Keatts landed himself a job in the ACC.

It also should come as no surprise that UNCW looks like they will take a bit of a step back in C.B. McGrath’s first season at the helm. Chris Flemmings, the Player of the Year in 2016, and C.J. Bryce, the Player of the Year in 2017, both left the program, Flemmings to graduation and Bryce to N.C. State along with Keatts. With two other starts gone along with the man who built the roster to fit his style of play, McGrath is going to have his work cut out for him this year.

What that means is that the top of the CAA is going to be wide open this year, and on paper it seems as if two teams are in the driver’s seat to take over the title of ‘CAA’s Best’.

The obvious pick is College of Charleston, who finished last season just a game off of UNCW’s pace. The Cougars return essentially everyone from last year’s team, including the best one-two punch in the conference in Joe Chealey and Jarrell Brantley. Throw in rising sophomore Grant Riller, who was one of the best newcomers in the league a season ago, and Earl Grant’s club as plenty of firepower to go along with being the league’s best defensive team last year, according to KenPom.

I firmly expect Elon to be in the mix for the CAA title as well. Like Charleston, the Phoenix essentially bring back their entire roster, led by junior forward Tyler Seibring. The difference, however, is that Charleston simply has more firepower. Seibring could end up being the CAA Player of the Year if he can lead this group to a league title. Charleston has two players that could end up being the league POY and a third that is a sleeper to finish as a first-team all-conference player.

If there is a sleeper to win the league, it’s probably Towson. The Tigers bring back Mike Morsell and DeShaun Morman, but replacing Arnaud William Adala Moro and John Davis is going to be a difficult thing to do. Beyond that, the CAA is tough to project. Northeastern lost T.J. Williams, who came out of nowhere to be arguably the best player in the conference last season, but they return a number of veteran players, get some guys back from injury and add Tomas Murphy, the youngest brother of Alex and Erik.

Hofstra brings back the league’s best scorer (Justin Wright-Foreman) and best rebounder (Rokas Gustys), and Delaware has some young talent on the roster, led by last year’s Freshman of the Year Ryan Daly, but then the rest of the league gets pretty ugly. William & Mary is going into full rebuilding mode with Omar Prewitt and Daniel Dixon gone. Drexel still is in full rebuild mode, while James Madison loses just about everyone not named Jackson Kent or Ramone Snowden.

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PRESEASON CAA PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Joe Chealey, Charleston

Chealey was the best player for the Cougars a season ago, and that isn’t going to change this season. A senior point guard on a team that returns, essentially, everyone from a group that finished second in the CAA a year ago, Chealey is the easy pick for Preseason Player of the Year.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-CAA TEAM

  • Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra: Wright-Foreman should end up leading the CAA in scoring this season. The Pride should end up being better than they were a year ago with the amount of talent that is returning.
  • Tyler Seibring, Elon: The Phoenix return all five starters, but the most notable is Seibring, a 6-foot-8 junior who will likely end up being the CAA Player of the Year if Elon can find a way to win the league.
  • Devontae Cacok, UNCW: UNCW lost a ton this offseason but they did return Cacok, who is one of the most dominant interior presences in the mid-major ranks. He’ll be asked to do a lot more this season.
  • Jarrell Brantley, Charleston: Brantley was a first-team all-CAA player last season and he’ll be back, which is a major reason why the Cougars seem to be the favorite to win the CAA this year.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Charleston
2. Elon
3. Towson
4. UNCW
5. Hofstra
6. Northeastern
7. Delaware
8. William & Mary
9. James Madison
10. Drexel

Louisville’s two remaining assistant coaches placed on administrative leave

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Louisville announced on Friday that the only two remaining assistant coaches on the staff, Jordan Fair and Kenny Johnson, have been placed on paid administrative leave as the school continues to investigate their involvement in allegations made in last week’s FBI complaint.

Fair had been with the program for just over a year after being hired away from Oldsmar Christian, a high school in Florida. Johnson was with Louisville as an assistant since 2014, when he was hired away from another Adidas school, Indiana.

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was put on unpaid leave on Sept. 27.

“We are in the process of executing our due diligence as it relates to an ongoing investigation and feel that this an appropriate step at this time,” Louisville interim athletic director Vince Tyra said. “Our university will continue to fully cooperate with federal authorities in their investigation.”

Big South Conference Preview: Nick McDevitt, UNC Asheville just keep winning

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Big South Conference.

At some point, a big school is going to figure out that UNC Asheville head coach Nick McDevitt is better at his job than most coaches are at their’s. After reaching the NCAA tournament in 2015-16, McDevitt lost his two best freshman – Dylan Smith and Dwayne Sutton – to Arizona and Louisville, respectively. In 2016-17, despite losing those two, McDevitt’s Bulldogs won three more conference games and a share of the Big South regular season title.

Better yet, McDevitt returns almost his entire rotation from that team, which includes a pair of first-team all-conference performers in Ahmad Thomas and MaCio Teague. With veterans like Kevin Vannatta and Alec Wnuk back and Donovan Gilmore, a transfer from College of Charleston, eligible up front, there’s no reason to believe UNCA will do anything other than push for the league title once again.

After reaching the NCAA tournament a season ago, Winthrop very nearly lost head coach Pat Kelsey to UMass, but after agreeing to a deal and having a press conference scheduled to announce the hire, Kelsey backed out and returned to the Eagles. He’s going to have his work cut out for him repeating last year’s success, as Keon Johnson, who averaged 22 points, is gone, along with four of their top seven from last year. But Xavier Cooks is back, and Kelsey will have a veteran-laden roster around him.

If Winthrop takes a step back, look for Liberty to take a step forward in the conference standings. They finished 14-4 in the Big South and return a number of key pieces, including Ryan Kemrite, a fifth-year senior a,d Lovell Cabbil. Ritchie McKay will also have a couple of younger players looking for bigger roles, namely Myo Baxter-Ball, but their ceiling will be determine by the health of Caleb Homesley. He was averaging 12.9 points, 6.3 boards and 2.9 assists when he tore his ACL, the second such injury he’s suffered, in December.

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Another contender to keep an eye on will be Campbell, who got Chris Clemons back for his junior season. The 5-foot-9 Clemons was the third-leading scorer in the country a year ago, but it is his supporting cast that makes the Camels promising. A year ago, they were young, with the majority of their rotation being freshmen and sophomores. Now, guys like Marcus Burk and Cory Gensler are sophomores, while there is still a nice blend of veterans on the roster; Shane Whitfield, Mogga Lado, Andrew Eudy.

Radford will also be an interesting team to track. They return everyone of consequence from a team that went 8-10 in the league last season. Charleston Southern is going to be interesting with Christian Keeling, who averaged 17 points and seven boards as a freshman, returning with Cortez Mitchell, but losing Armel Potter to transfer was a blow. Gardner-Webb would have had a shot had they not lost LaQuincy Rideau to a transfer during the offseason. Ande Fox and Jamal Wright are both good young pieces for High Point, but it won’t be easy replacing three of their top four scorers.

Presbyterian is going to be hoping that a change in leadership will change the fortunes of the program, former Wofford assistant Dustin Kerns has taken the reins. Longwood won three games last season and lost their two best players this offseason.

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PRESEASON BIG SOUTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Chris Clemons, Campbell

This one was easy. Clemons, a dynamic 5-foot-9 scoring guard, was the nation’s third-leading scorer a year ago, checking in at 25.1 points per game. The Camels finished last season just 7-11 in Big South play, but they did make a run to the final of the Big South tournament and they do return essentially their entire rotation.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-BIG SOUTH TEAM

  • Xavier Cooks, Winthrop: Cooks proved to be one of the most versatile bigs in the league last season, averaging 16.5 points, 9.1 boards, 2.8 assists and 1.7 blocks for the Eagles as they reached the NCAA tournament.
  • MaCio Teague, UNC Asheville: No one is better at finding under-the-radar talent than Nick McDevitt, and he worked his magic again, as Teague averaged 15.4 points as a freshman with the Bulldogs.
  • Ahmad Thomas, UNC Asheville: Thomas was not only the leading scorer for last year’s regular season co-champions, but he also, at 6-foot-3, might have been the best perimeter defender in the conference.
  • Christian Keeling, Charleston Southern: As a 6-foot-4 freshman, Keeling averaged 17.4 points and 7.1 boards for the Buccaneers.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. UNC Asheville
2. Liberty
3. Campbell
4. Winthrop
5. Radford
6. High Point
7. Gardner-Webb
8. Charleston Southern
9. Presbyterian
10. Longwood

Michael Porter Jr., other freshmen, set high hopes at Missouri

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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Kevin Puryear was fresh off welcoming Cuonzo Martin to Columbia when his attention turned to who might be coming to Missouri with his new coach.

Little did the junior know at that point that his school, the one that had won just 18 games over his first two seasons, was about to put together a Kentucky-like class of freshmen that will hopefully help the Tigers climb out of the Southeastern Conference basement — at least.

It was a class highlighted by the arrival of prep All-American Michael Porter Jr., but that was just the beginning.

One after another, the pieces fell into place for Missouri and Martin. All in all, the Tigers brought in five talented freshmen following last season — Porter Jr., his younger brother Jontay, forward Jeremiah Tilmon and guards Blake Harris and C.J. Roberts.

Suddenly the program decimated by three straight last-place finishes in the SEC feels reborn. And the youngsters have restored hope to a once-proud basketball program, even to the Tigers themselves.

“I was like everybody else, just watching (the signings),” said Puryear, who was second on the team in scoring a year ago as a sophomore. “My first couple of years were rough, so to have some kind of good hype around us instead of the negative talk is good to have.”

Only one of the freshmen five were committed to Missouri prior to Martin’s arrival. Roberts, a 6-foot guard from Texas, had signed with the Tigers during his senior year of high school but was unsure about sticking with his Missouri commitment following former coach Kim Anderson’s firing .

Then Washington fired coach Lorenzo Romar in March along with Huskies assistant coach Michael Porter Sr., the father of the top prep prospect in the country.

Porter Jr. was committed to Washington after having moved to the northwest for his senior season of high school. However, once his father was fired, the 6-foot-10 forward had a good idea that he was headed back home.

The Porter family had lived in Columbia for six years before their move to Washington, during which time Porter Sr. worked on the women’s basketball staff. After he was hired by Martin to return to Missouri, Porter Jr. followed suit — joining his dad and two sisters, who were already members of the women’s basketball team that’s coached by his aunt, Robin Pingeton.

“It’s been awesome, coming back here,” Porter Jr. said. “All of my best friends are here, so it was great coming back and hanging out with them all the time.”

When Porter Jr. wasn’t busy preparing to return home to his friends during the spring, he was working to assemble as much talent as possible with the Tigers. That included convincing another former Washington commit, Harris, to join him in Columbia — along with Tilmon.

Roberts saw the talent arriving and eventually reaffirmed his commitment to Missouri under Martin, but the final piece to the Tigers’ version of the Fab Five didn’t arrive until August.

That’s when Porter Jr’s little brother, 6-foot-11 forward Jontay, reclassified and skipped what would have been his senior year of high school to join his brother and father on the Missouri team.

The result has been an overhauled roster, more-energetic practices and — finally — a sense of hope for the Tigers, who were 8-46 in the SEC over the last three seasons.

“Every college basketball player’s dream is to compete for a national championship,” Puryear said. “We’re trying to go all the way with this thing, and we’re glad to have (the freshmen).”

Padgett: Louisville hoops team gaining ‘sense of normalcy’

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — David Padgett seemed to enjoy the change of pace.

The interim Louisville men’s basketball coach got a chance to answer more questions about basketball than the hoard of legal turmoil surrounding the program he now runs. The university’s involvement in a federal investigation has brought on a drastic change in both Padgett’s life and the direction of the basketball program — all in just over a week.

“We’re returning to some sense of normalcy,” Padgett said Wednesday, “and we’re getting there because we’ve been able to practice and focus on the hardwood.”

Padgett is adapting on the fly since being named as Louisville’s interim replacement for coach Rick Pitino, who was placed on unpaid administrative leave Sept. 27 after the school acknowledged its involvement in the investigation .

There has been a constant stream of questions about the probe, Pitino, athletic director Tom Jurich and freshman Brian Bowen. And the inquiries won’t stop anytime soon. But on the fourth official practice day, Padgett was happy to discuss what’s happening on the court rather than the drama off of it.

“It’s been a good couple of days,” Padgett said, “things are starting to slow down. I’m starting to sleep a little bit, which is good. … We’re moving in the right direction.”

At 32, Padgett is the youngest head coach in NCAA Division I and admittedly green in many phases. He’s coming off his first year as a Louisville assistant after two seasons as its director of basketball operations.

For the moment, Padgett is also on his own.

Louisville’s athletic board voted Monday to proceed with firing Pitino after 16 seasons as coach. Jurich was placed on paid administrative leave and the school’s trustee board will review his status at its Oct. 18 meeting.

Cardinal assistants Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair are still on staff and allowed on campus. But acting athletic director Vince Tyra said they’re not participating as the school reviews the investigation.

“That’s something I’m working on,” said Tyra, named on Tuesday to replace Jurich.

“At this point David is a one-man band and he’s out there trying to do what he can, and that’s part of the issue. You can do that for a practice or two, but that’s not a good recipe. And I’ve got to solve that.”

Padgett has a support system close by after his parents flew in from Nevada after his promotion. His father Pete, who coached Padgett in high school, has offered advice.

“I just need him to be my dad,” Padgett said.

Through the first few practices, Padgett had gained the Cardinals’ attention and respect with his booming baritone voice and familiarity with the roster.

Louisville returns 7-footer Anas Mahmoud and guard Quentin Snider, both seniors, and junior forward Deng Adel. The three are team captains, and Padgett said they’ve shown good leadership with recruits such as 6-11 Malik Williams.

Padgett said that’s necessary as he works to keep Louisville focused on basketball.

“I’m a players’ coach,” Padgett said. “There’s going to be times when I have to get on them, and the job of every assistant coach in the world is when the head coach gets on you, someone’s got to pick you back up.

“I think that dynamic changes a little bit, but that’s just something we kind of work on as we go.”

One notable absence is the 6-7 Bowen, who is still enrolled at Louisville. The player’s name was not released by federal prosecutors, but details in the criminal complaint make it clear investigators were referring to the high school All-American.

Bowen has hired an attorney, Miami-based Jason Setchen, but the lawyer has not returned messages from The Associated Press.

University interim President Greg Postel did not name Bowen in his remarks last week, said a “student-athlete” is being held out of practice and games until allegations are resolved.

Mountain West Conference Preview: Can the league get back to being a multi-bid conference?

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Mountain West Conference.

Five or six years ago, the Mountain West was one of the most entertaining conferences in college basketball.

Maybe it was Kawhi Leonard leading the upstart San Diego State Aztecs to a top five ranking while competing for a league title with BYU’s Jimmer Fredette, who became must-see TV despite never actually playing on TV. Or maybe it was the Steve Alford-led New Mexico teams loaded with Pac-12 talent like Drew Gordon, or Kendall Williams, or Darington Hobson, or Tony Snell. Dave Rice had UNLV rolling, Leon Rice was just starting to build Boise State into something that could match the football program and Larry Eustachy took over from Tim Miles at Colorado State and kept the Rams squarely in the NCAA tournament picture. Fresno State had Paul George. Wyoming had Larry Nance.

The MWC had years where they rated as a top four basketball conference in the sport. There were years that they sent five teams to the NCAA tournament. In 2011, both BYU and SDSU were top three seeds.

And now?

It looks like the league will once again be a one-bid league come March.

So what happened?

Some of it is cyclical. Colorado State and Boise State aren’t always going to be NCAA tournament teams, and Fresno State and Wyoming aren’t always going to find late-bloomers with first round potential that often. Some of it was also luck. San Diego State just so happened to land the best coach they’ve ever had, who happened to land a future top five player in the NBA, at the same time that Alford was mining the Pac-12 for their castoffs and Jimmer, a once-in-a-decade player, was doing Jimmer things at BYU.

And maybe it was just as simple as all ships rising with the tide. Mastery of the RPI combined with an influx of coaching talent, a run of promising recruits outperforming expectations and an impressive amount of home court advantage keeping anyone at the top from running away with league titles meant their were balanced races where the teams in fourth and fifth place were landing themselves wins that looked great on a tournament resume.

The league today is not what it was then, not with three of the most successful programs in the conference over the last decade in the midst of regime changes.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t get back to that level one day.

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FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Nevada has it rolling: Things are still rolling for the Wolfpack under Eric Musselman has his ability to attract talented recruits has not slowed down yet. In addition to Jordan Caroline, who may just be the best player in the MWC this season, and Lindsay Drew, the son of NBA head coach Larry Drew, four former high-major transfers will be eligible this fall after redshirting last season in Reno: Kendall Stephens (Purdue), Hallice Cooke (Iowa State) and Cody and Caleb Martin (N.C. State). That doesn’t include Darien Williams, a grad transfer from St. John’s.

Nevada lost a ton of talent from last season – Marcus Marshall, Cameron Oliver, D.J. Fenner – but with the influx of players that Musselman has coming in combined with a returning star in Caroline and a veteran point guard in Drew, this team will enter the season as the heavy favorite to win the league and a team with the potential to make some noise in the NCAA tournament.

2. San Diego State replacing the man that built the program: When Steve Fisher took over the San Diego State basketball program in 1999, the Aztecs had been to just one NCAA tournament in the modern era (the first one) and three since becoming a Division I program in 1970. Fisher built SDSU into a Mountain West powerhouse with a rabid fanbase that could compete with some of the biggest names out west for recruits. He retired, and longtime assistant Brian Dutcher took over.

Dutcher was not left with the cupboard bare. The Aztecs probably have one of the best back courts in the league, as Trey Kell, Jeremy Helmsly and Montaque Gill-Cesear will be joined by San Francisco transfer Devin Watson, who could end up starting at the point. The enigmatic Malik Pope is back as well, while Max Montana – formerly Max Hoetzel – and Kameron Rooks, a grad transfer from Cal, join him up front.

The question isn’t the talent. It’s Dutcher. Can he right the ship for a program that has missed the last two NCAA tournaments after reaching the dance six years in a row?

Jordan Caroline (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

3. Can Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison make up for the loss of key pieces?: Hutchison is a very, very good basketball player, one that looks like he will lead the league in scoring this season. But he is also going to be the focal point for a team that just lost three of their four best players, including starting point guard Paris Austin. If the Broncos want to get back to the NCAA tournament, they are going to need Justinian Jacob and Zach Haney to have big years.

4. Can the basketball program survive New Mexico going through a regime change: The carnage runs deep at New Mexico, where scandal after scandal is getting exposed and it’s unclear what decision-makers are actually going to be left by the time the dust settles. Craig Neal already lost his job. In his stead is Paul Weir, who will have to try and find a way to earn back the fanbase’s trust. It might take a while, as a Lobo team with no depth lost their two best players last season. That’s why they had to go out and hire the coach from archrival New Mexico State.

The good news? There is talent transferring in; JaQuan Lyle, Vance Jackson, Antino Jackson. The bad news? That talent will have to sit a year.

5. Marvin Menzies might have something at UNLV: Menzies managed to win four MWC games last season after having to essentially rebuild the entire roster when he took over, and while he lost a number of key pieces from that team, he did get Jovan Mooring, the team’s leading scorer, back. More importantly, he landed a commitment from Brandon McCoy, a top 15 prospect and a potential one-and-done talent at the center spot. Whether or not there are pieces around McCoy to make a run is arguable. But there is McCoy, and he is good.

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PRESEASON MOUNTAIN WEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Chandler Hutchison, Boise State

Boise State got somewhat lucky this offseason, as Hutchison, a 6-foot-7 forward with three-point range that averaged 17.4 points and 7.8 boards, opted not to enter the NBA Draft. He probably was not destined to be a first round pick, but there are plenty of NBA scouts that do believe he has a shot at having a good professional career. Leon Rice’s club lost three of their top four scorers from last year’s team, meaning there are going to be more opportunities for Hutchison this season. If Boise is as good as I expect them to be, it will likely be because Hutchison turns in a phenomenal season.

THE REST OF THE ALL-MOUNTAIN WEST FIRST TEAM

  • Jordan Caroline, Nevada: It’s a toss-up for Player of the Year in the MWC between Hutchison and Caroline. I lean Hutchison personally, mainly because I think that he will put up much bigger numbers for a team that competes for top three in the league, but there’s a valid argument to saying that Caroline is the best basketball player in the conference. Picking him as POY is not the wrong choice.
  • Koby McEwen, Utah State: McEwen had a monster freshman season for the Aggies, and with Jalen Moore and Shane Rector gone, he’ll have that much more on his plate this season.
  • Justin James, Wyoming: James came off the bench for the Pokes last season despite being their best player. This year, Wyoming has a real shot to finish second in the league, and James is a major reason for that.
  • Brandon McCoy, UNLV: The 7-foot McCoy is the most talented player in the conference. The talent may not be there around him, but there aren’t any other potential lottery picks in the conference.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • Trey Kell, San Diego State
  • Jaron Hopkins, Fresno State
  • Caleb Martin, Nevada
  • Hayden Dalton, Wyoming
  • Jeremy Helmsly, San Diego State

BREAKOUT STAR: Koby McEwen, Utah State

Down the stretch of the season, McEwen was arguably the best player on the Aggies. Defenses knew how to slow down Jalen Moore after four years in the league. McEwen was a new talent, one that will shine even brighter next season now that Moore and Shane Rector have graduated.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Brian Dutcher, San Diego State

Dutcher, by no means, is in danger of losing his job. He literally just got the job. But he is taking over for the greatest coach in the history of the program, a coach in Steve Fisher that built a perennial tournament team where a perennial cellar-dweller had resided. Being the guy to replace The Guy is never going to be easy, particularly when taking over a talented team that has underperformed expectations of late.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING …

The Mountain West is a one-bid league once again.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT …

Seeing if Wyoming can make the push to win a league title. Anyone that’s been to Laramie knows that it is not exactly the easiest place to recruit a player to, not if they visit during the winter.

FOUR NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR

  • 11/13, Rhode Island vs. Nevada
  • 12/1, Boise State at Oregon
  • 12/2, Arizona at UNLV
  • 12/21, Gonzaga at San Diego State

POWER RANKINGS

1. Nevada: The Wolfpack are the reigning champions of the MWC and will once again be the most talented team in the league. That’s a good combination of things.
2. Wyoming: I’m going out on a limb with this one, but with the Pokes returning all but two of their rotation players, including Justin James and the underrated Hayden Dalton, Wyoming is going to sneak up on some people.
3. Boise State: Leon Rice is going to have to replace a lot of scoring and minutes this year, but the good news is that he will be able to do that while relying on Chandler Hutchison to carry the team.
4. San Diego State: The issue for the Aztecs isn’t going to be talent. As we discussed above, they have the pieces. The question is whether or not those pieces come together. The key may be Devin Watson, the San Francisco transfer. SDSU had three “point guards” that wanted to score last season. Can Watson embrace the role of distributor, or is he going to want to be a scorer as well?
5. Fresno State: Rodney Terry returned arguably his two best players with Jaron Hopkins and DeShon Taylor and has a handful of talented redshirts and transfers around them. If New Williams and Nate Grimes can live up to the hype they had in high school, the Bulldogs are a sleeper to push for the league title.
6. Utah State: This may be too high for a USU team that is losing two of their best players, but the Aggies have a pair of really promising sophomore guards in Koby McEwen and Sam Merrill  that played some of their best basketball late last season.
7. Colorado State: Larry Eustachy’s teams at CSU have been up and down: He’ll contend for the league one year, finish around .500 the next. They contended for the league last season, lost their two best players and now look destined for the middle of the pack as they reload.
8. UNLV: It’s hard to know what to expect from this group. Brandon McCoy should be awesome, but do they have the supporting cast to push for the top half of the league standings? Is there anyone on the team that can actually feed McCoy the ball where he can be effective?
9. New Mexico: The Lobos needed some new blood running the program, and I fully expect Paul Weir to get things turned around. That said, there is more talent redshirting this season than there will be playing.
10. Air Force: The Falcons have 23 players on their roster. They’re also Air Force. They’ll probably win a few games they shouldn’t – and beat UNLV, since they always do – but that’s about it.
11. San Jose State: Their coach left this summer after their best player transferred to Gonzaga, and now there is a lawsuit alleging the former coach verbally abused players on the team.